I wanted to read this book after so much enjoying the author’s historical novel, “A Just and Upright Man” (written as R J Lynch) that I was ready to read anything else he’d written in any genre.
I admit that I’d held off for a while because the forthright title and the cover image of a slick-looking professional photographer didn’t especially draw me in, and although I know completely get why he chose this title, I’m still not that keen on the cover, smart though it is – to my mind, the kind of image in the opening credits for the old TV series “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?” might have been more appropriate. Anyway, the story’s the most important thing…
Not Judging by its Cover
Once I’d got beyond the cover, I was quickly immersed in an unputdownable novel about a young Newcastle lad who seeks to break the vicious and desperate cycle of sink estate society, despite the odds being against him. It’s a gritty, honest, and frank novel that despite being full of tough truths, ultimately offers a heartwarming, life-affirming and entirely believable and appropriate ending. (No plot spoilers here!) It’s also a tender, dignified, yet unsentimental story of life on the wrong side of the tracks.
This balanced, sensitive novel makes thought-provoking and politically powerful reading, particularly on the subjects of social (im)mobility – a theme also addressed in the same author’s historical novel, A Just and Upright Man. It’s also a rich exploration of love, loss, survival, family loyalties and friendships.
It’s eloquent on the nature of celebrity, and merciless in its damnation of the popular press. (Quite rightly so – they don’t deserve any mercy!)
It’s also an eye-opener about the national judiciary system and prison service. Yet it is never melodramatic, erring on the side of understatement, which is much more effective.
To strike the right balance with this kind of material is a real accomplishment, and this book deserves to be much more widely read and recognised. While of particular interest to a British audience of the right age to be familiar with the TV programme I mentioned at the outset, its issues translate, I’m sure, to readers in other countries, just as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird resonates with readers from way beyond its setting.
In short, it’s a moving, well-timed and probably timeless novel whose world will remain vivid in the minds of readers long after the turn the final page.
To find out more about this author, visit his website: www.jlynchblog.com